Choosing Happiness

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, today’s date (March 20, the International Day of Happiness) feels particularly important. This article will help you find positivity during these trying times, especially if you’ve been feeling down lately. If you think you may need further assistance, please refer to these resources:


Article submission by clinical psychologist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D.

The goal of International Day of Happiness is to spread happiness. The holiday became official with the support of a 2012 UN Resolution declaring that every person on this planet has a fundamental right to happiness. Happiness can be the result of living a life where one’s choices, actions, and behaviors are meaningful, in accordance with one’s values. Happiness can also be an attitude and outlook that is cultivated from living each day deliberately.

So we invite you, on this International Day of Happiness, to consider a choice that regularly presents itself to you throughout your day. May you choose to embrace happiness. And may you choose to cultivate this as a regular practice. As this becomes a regular practice, it will naturally begin to lend itself to feeling happy as the go-to response. After all, how we approach happiness is our choice.

While we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can choose our attitude toward these circumstances. We can also decide what we do about our circumstances. There is a tremendous power in choice. When we choose to adopt a positive mindset, or take action to make ourselves or our situations better, the byproduct is happiness.

Even in uncertain times in a world characterized by uncertainty, you can choose happiness. Because of the reality that we are in highly uncertain times, you owe it to yourself to try. Your challenge for today is to try. Choose happiness.

We can choose to see challenges as opportunities to build up character and skill. We can choose to view negativity or volatility as just another obstacle to overcome.

Choosing happiness has many positive health benefits for us. It will help us feel less anxious and reduce our risk for depression. It may make you more resilient against whatever you are exposed to. It will impact your ability to face stressors, big and small. The value of emotional health cannot be overstated.

How can you become “happier”?

Choosing “happy” may require a significant shift in mindset and/ or require you to take action. Here are some tips to help you cultivate this practice.

  • Consider the words that you use, whether internally in your thoughts or in your communication with others. Your choice in language sets the tone for your outlook. Your language choices essentially reflect your internal narrative. Do you use an active voice or a passive voice? For example, notice the difference between saying, “Have a nice day” and “Make it a wonderful day.”
  • Surround yourself with positivity: people, ideas, and things that make you feel good! Notice and take an audit on what feels good vs. what brings you down. Make any adjustments to your life based on the results of this audit.
  • Generally speaking, every situation, no matter how unwanted, likely has a positive you can extract from it. Shift your focus to noticing the positives in a situation. Concentrating on things that you feel good about, or noticing the good out there in the world, will undoubtedly create a carryover effect into other areas, including your general state of happiness.
  • Taking action can be a catalyst for feeling happy, and there are lots of ways you can do this. For example, you may want to do something kind for someone else, just because. Not only might this make someone else feel happy, but you may find that this increases your own positive well-being. You are essentially spreading happiness by paying it forward.
  • Practice self-awareness. Notice how you and your needs may fluctuate. What feels good for you today may be similar to or different from last week. Ask yourself some thoughtful questions such as, ‘What feels nourishing for me today?’ Or ‘What can I do right now that could help cultivate happiness?’
  • Adopt a mantra or a short saying that stirs something positive within you. A word or a phrase that when you think it or say it aloud, you know you can lift your mood or lighten your load. Know that you can return to this whenever you are needing it.

Marni Amsellem, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist based in metro NYC and Connecticut specializing in health psychology and helping her clients develop skills to navigate challenges and build resilience. In addition to having a private practice, she is an author and consultant. As a topic expert and researcher, Dr. Amsellem consults with hospitals, organizations, and companies on issues related to behavior change and health psychology. She has authored two books, The Big Idea Journal: A Tool for Facilitating Change and Bringing your Idea to Life and Navigating Relationships in Bipolar Disorder. Additionally, she writes about a variety of mental health, relationship, health, and prevention-focused topics in multiple media outlets (accessible on her website www.smarthealthpsych.comand on Twitter (@smartpsychreads). More recently, she has launched www.writereflectgrow.com, an online community focused on journaling where she offers journaling-focused online and live workshops, journals (coming soon!), and other resources. Look for Write. Reflect. Grow. on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and stay tuned for announcements.